Throughout the Bible, we see God most angry with His people when they live ritualistic lives of ‘devotion’ to Him while failing to obey His commands.
Take Amos 5:21-24 for example:
21. I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23. Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24. But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (See also Isaiah 1)
Notice the tone in this passage and in Isaiah 1. God is angry. He is fed up with empty religious acts. He has no tolerance for showy worship.
What he expects from His people is a contrite heart. A heart that recognizes the desperate need for God’s grace. A heart that humbly approaches God out of a loving desire to know Him. As Romans 12:1 says, true spiritual worship is the offering of one’s whole self as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
But we have to be careful here. You can read passages like Amos 5 and Isaiah 1 and become so fearful of religious action that you never do anything for the Kingdom! Isaiah 58 helps us draw the connection between faithful worship and kingdom action. In this passage God is condemning His people again for their empty worship and self-seeking. In verses 6 and 7 He shows us how true hearts of worship manifest themselves:
6. Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
True worship is revealed in kingdom action. In the context of this passage, social action; freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. James tells us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).”
But it’s more than just social action. As New Testament Christians our genuine worship s revealed in our mission. As John Piper says in his book Let The Nations Be Glad, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” In other words, we go with the Gospel to the broken, sick, dying, and poor because God deserves to be worshipped by all above all.
This is meant to be a simple test of our hearts. Let these passages of scripture soak in your mind and heart. The next time you walk into a service on Sunday morning and passionately declare your love for God in song or sit down to have a quiet time ask yourself, “Am I living on mission with those around me? Am I helping the poor and needy? Are there tangible actions that point to a heart of genuine worship?”
If the answer is “yes” then praise God for his grace at the cross and beg for it to continue. Ask Him to guard you from spiritual pride and cast yourself and the work of Christ alone. If the answer is “no” then repent of empty worship and cling to the Cross of Christ. And by His grace begin pursuing His kingdom.
Because true worship and kingdom action are inseparable.